The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes

Cookbooks are great entertainment. They not only suggest new ways to prepare food, but also can provide a description of exotic places, wonderful photographs and interesting stories. Marieel Presilla, who comes from a family of cacao farmers and is a highly respected culinary historian, takes us on a fascinating tour of the roots of our favorite fruit. Yes indeed, fruit! You may be surprised to learn that this pod, the size and shape of a football, sprouts from the tree trunk in shades of bright orange, yellow and green and must be fermented to achieve that sumptuous taste of chocolate. This yummy food can be grown only within 20 degrees of the equator, so that famous Swiss or Belgian chocolate you love so much is most likely from Venezuela!

This book is indeed an interesting and informative history of chocolate. There are over 100 beautiful photographs illustrating the text. Presilla has a genuine love for her subject and also the hard-working people whose lives are intimately involved in the day-to-day farming of cacao. The fascinating story follows the “miraculous leap from the bitter cacao seed to the food of royalty in Aztec Mexico and later Spain, Europe and beyond.”

Chocolate fiends out there will be happy to know that the book includes heavenly recipes from internationally known pastry chefs and chocolatiers—recipes for treats such as “Chocolate-Coconut Soup with Fresh Bananas,” “Chocolate-Cheese Truffles” and “Soft Chocolate Cake with Banana-Raisin Sauce and Lime Cream.” What about “Chocolate Jasmine Ice Cream"? Or “Pecan-Guaranda Chocolate Tart with Mango and Papaya"? (Guaranda is a dark chocolate that is 71 percent cacao). My mouth is still watering.

Many of us know the nuances of and differences between great and not-so-good wine, cheese and coffee. So it is with chocolate. A chapter in the book tells us how to taste, appreciate and select quality chocolate by identifying important elements such as mouth feel, texture, color, aromas and flavor depending on the purpose (desserts, hot chocolate, sauces, etc.). There is also a source index for obtaining the different kinds of chocolate discussed in the book, as well as a bibliography and recipe index. Interesting to note is the different chocolate preferences of Americans, Germans, French, Swiss and Japanese. And the recipes presented here are different and mostly not complicated.